I have briefly returned from digital leave to write about the fantastic Northern Grid for Learning Conference (#ngconf) which took place yesterday in Newcastle. I spoke at the conference last year but was even more excited to attend this year as a large proportion of the speakers were folk from Twitter who I have spoken to online over the past two years.
My general despair at the state of education and the constant stream of bad news and budget cuts has led to a very sombre atmosphere of late. However, the impressive opening keynote from Russell Prue (@russellprue) was a reminder that there is hope in these troubled times. The line-up of speakers was outstanding and there was a real buzz and sense of excitement about possibilities of further innovation throughout the whole day.
I had the pleasure of finally meeting Dan Roberts (@chickensaltash) who I’ve known on Twitter for years but never actually met in person as well as the legendary Bev Evans (@bevevans22), the genuinely great Rachel Orr (@RachelOrr) and Dughall McCormick (@dughall). It was great to see Bill Lord (@Joga5), Ian Addison (@ianaddison), David Rogers (@davidErogers) and John Heffernan (@johnmayo) again and hear about the fantastic things that they have been doing in schools. Sadly I missed Jan Webb (@JanWebb21) and Lisa Stevens (@lisibo), which was the only negative of the day. I did manage to see Bev speak about fantastic ways of using free tools to support SEN in the classroom and she has forced me to rethink how I perceive tools such as PowerPoint. It was also great to see some of the amazing things that David and Dan had been doing in their schools, especially from a secondary perspective. I have so many ideas that I can use with my class next year. It was also great to share some of the things I have been doing with my class in my workshop too.
On a personal note the event also served as an important reminder and reassurance… I am not alone in my views and beliefs on education. I needed reminding of this and it has really inspired me.
Finally, I had the huge honour of meeting the legendary Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) who I have followed on Twitter and through his blog for many years. His keynote was outstanding and I wish all of the members of staff at my school could have heard it. He pitched the balance between theory and practice perfectly. It was also very humbling for Steve to mention my work during the keynote and my upcoming work at the University of Tasmania. The stuff he said was pure gold. Referencing recent changes in education, Steve also made the important point:
“If you’re fighting a gorilla you don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired.”
In addition to this, I think that #ngconf demonstrated that you’re never alone when fighting the metaphorical gorilla. There are always communities and networks like Twitter with likeminded people and I am exceptionally thankful for them. We might feel like we are alone in our views at times… but we never are.
A huge thanks needs to go to the incredibly modest Simon Finch (@simfin) who organised the panel of speakers for the day. I hope he realises how much of a success and inspiration the day was for everyone who attended.